Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Extended Family

"We just bought a house!" It was a Saturday in June of 2007 and we called my parents with the news. They were taken aback. "We didn't know you were looking," they said.

We really hadn't meant to buy a house that day. Indeed, we hadn't been looking, and we didn't even plan to move. But we had just made one of the best decisions of our lives. We'd bought a house for a widow in Africa.

That morning we had heard a presentation by Denise Patch, co-director of a program called Sister Connection. She talked about the thousands of women of Burundi who had been widowed through the civil war that raged in that country for over a decade. She explained that these women, who were raising their own children and often other orphans, were considered the outcasts of society. To support a widow through Sister Connection would give her a means to care for herself and her children and would give her dignity in the eyes of her community.

We headed over to the sponsorship table, looking for a widow with two boys, maybe about the ages of our own boys. That's where we learned about Esperance. On her information card we saw that she had two boys who looked to be similar in age to our sons, and that she needed a house. Like I said, we hadn't planned to buy a house that day, but when we learned how easy it was to enrich someone else's life we were grateful for the opportunity. Esperance's metal roofed brick house cost us just $500 (houses now cost $600) and was one of the best gifts we've been privileged to give.

We received a gift from Esperance recently. Abby and Thad Nelson went to Burundi recently as a part of a team providing a camp experience for Sister Connection kids. They returned with gifts for sponsors in our church. Our gift was a trivet made of a long, tightly woven cord wrapped around and around, with "AFRICA" stitched into it. It is quite intricate and would have required great patience to make it.

When we began to sponsor Esperance and her sons they joined the children we sponsor through International Child Care Ministries. Rachel is ten and is one of several children in her family in Malawi. Eight-year-old Jean Philippe is from Haiti and has seven siblings. Our small contribution to these families make it possible for the kids to go to school and maintain basic nutrition, things we take for granted in the U.S.

If you'd like to learn more about either of these programs, check them out at Sister Connection or International Child Care Ministries. Extend your family and provide support to people who could really use it. According to Matthew 25:40, you'll be doing it for Jesus.

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